UMW Should Do More to Prevent Sexual Assault
It has become increasingly apparent over the past two semesters that sexual assault is a serious problem on our campus. The well-publicized assault in the parking garage last year is just one example. The Bullet Police Beat has reported several sexual assaults on campus this semester, and the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported. The school is making little effort to improve its resources for the prevention of sexual assault and the aid of assault victims.
There is little education in orientation beyond a few warnings about school policy. Most of the school sponsored education focuses on “stranger” assault, which comprises a small minority of all sexual assaults. Furthermore, the school seems to only focus on educating potential victims on how to avoid assault without also educating potential perpetrators about consent and healthy sexual relationships.
The resources available on campus to provide aid to victims are scarce at best. The blue light system on campus is still not an effective preventative measure for sexual assault. During the 2009 Safety Walk test of the blue light system, it took campus police six minutes to respond to a call, too long to prevent an assault.
The campus escort system is unreliable and often ineffective. Vans are often unavailable and students must wait a long time before they are picked up. The university’s official policy is that if a student is intoxicated and uses the escort service, they may be referred to the campus police to be charged. This is a strong deterrent to students who want to use this resource for their own safety.
Students who report sexual assault to the police say they are intimidating, hostile and generally difficult to deal with. Above all, the school has no place where students can go at any time to receive physical and mental aid after a sexual assault. The school’s efforts to reduce sexual assault have been superficial at best.
There are, however, dedicated groups of students who have decided to take matters into their own hands. Student Anti-Violence Educators, or SAVE, is a new club on campus that seeks to prevent sexual assaults and relationship violence through concerts, petitioning and the Red Flag Campaign. SAVE can refer a victim of sexual assault to valuable resources available to them. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is a student activist group that campaigns and organizes for political, economic and social justice, including the prevention of sexual assault. SDS is organizing consent workshops to promote healthy sexual relationships and fighting for more resources for sexual assault prevention and aid on campus.
We need more resources on this campus for preventing and dealing with sexual assault. We need an effective alternative to the blue light system, an effective, nonthreatening escort system, school sponsored consent education, and a 24/7 sexual assault resource center. We need students to be able to receive useful help without being intimidated or harassed.
If this school is willing to spend millions of dollars on publicity projects, if they are willing to spend $18 million on a new basketball and volleyball center, then they should at least be willing to improve safety on campus and serve the needs of the student body. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the school is unwilling to do so, and if we want change, we have to make it ourselves. If we do not stand up for ourselves, no one else is going to.
Sophomore Evan McLaughlin, sophomore Sara Monk, freshman Paul Keily and senior Kayla Kuhn are members of Students for a Democratic Society.